Monday, November 20, 2006

Curb your emissions

Laurie David, according to an article in this weekends Guardian, is one of America’s foremost environmental campaigners. She is also married to Larry David – writer of “Curb your enthusiasm” and “Seinfeld”
Laurie David has campaigned against SUV’s and has been a driving force behind the Al Gore movie – “an inconvenient truth”. She has even written a book “The solution is you – an activist’s guide”.
All admirable pastimes for a wealthy liberal, but here is the problem – not only does she own a second home, she also owns a private jet! So regardless of the fact that she only uses it a few times a year, her carbon footprint must be as big as a fleet of SUV’s.
I just don’t understand how an environmental campaigner expects to be taken seriously when they own a private jet – this has got to be one of the worst excesses of the wealthy “elite”.
To me it just de-values all of the other good work that she does. If you want people to change their lifestyle in order to save the planet there is only one place you can start – yourself!
I think the British and American definitions of an eco-warrior differ somewhat. When I hear (some) Americans talk about eco-warriors – they more often mean some high flying environmental lawyer, or some Hollywood celebrity, or some entrepreneurial business man who is “doing their bit”. Whereas in the UK, we are more likely to think of Swampy and other activists who bury themselves underground to prevent a runway being built or handcuff themselves to a JCB digger to prevent it cutting down some trees.
I’m sure the high earning eco-warriors are doing their bit to raise awareness of the issues, but I’m afraid you’ll have to do better than that if you are going to earn our respect.
If there is one thing that this earth can’t sustain – it’s millionaires!


Anonymous said...

Hi Dave,

I always read your postings with interest but must enter a note of disagreement with this statement "If there is one thing that this earth can’t sustain – it’s millionaires!

It's possible to become a millionaire in Britain almost by accident, especially if you choose your parents carefully. Look at house prices in the south-east corner of England.

It's probably easier in the USA for exactly the same reason.

Your point might have more force if you changed "millionaires" to "billionaires".

Dave said...

Thanks for your comment.
Regardless of how the money is acquired I still think millionaires are unsustainable. It may be helpful to think of poverty in terms of absolute and relative poverty.
Compared to people from developing countries the majority of people in the west live a life of luxury. Even those on the lowest wage have adequate shelter, heating and food.
Some would say that the only reason we can afford to clothe and feed ourselves so cheaply is because we have exploited the developing world.

But back to the original point – I suppose it comes down to how you spend your money.
More money quite often means you are spending more on things that you don’t really need. Once your basic needs have been satisfied every purchase you make contributes to a cycle of production and waste that is becoming increasingly unsustainable.

So if you are worth a million or even a lot less than that, unless you give the majority of your money to charity, you are a bigger drain on the earth’s resources than someone who lives a simple life.

The economy of the entire planet is based on oil – so as we pass peak oil and head in to global recession maybe we will realise that not only can money not bring you happiness, but it can’t save the planet either.

Work less, earn less, spend less and live sustainably. I can’t say that I’m living completely by these principles but I’m moving in that direction – from next year I will only be working 11 months of the year in my main job so I can have the summer off with my kids. I wont be buying a new computer till this one breaks completely, I wont replace my tv till it is unrepairable or my mobile etc. and I am trying to buy most of my clothes from charity shops.
As I said in a previous posting, a great deal of satisfaction can be acquired from trying to live an ethical life.
Maybe I’m just a skinflint (I’m sure my wife would agree) but I enjoy not spending money :)